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Is it not true that we all seek it in a thousand ways, great and small, any if not every day? After all, while our sin-torn world has hints of heaven and the glory of God, it’s life-path offers a bumpy ride through the dark chapters of violence, hatred, greed, disease, loneliness and a whole cast of unwanted taxing and stressful circumstances.
We are all looking for a safe place to land . . to “park” for a while if you will . . you know, that right job, that secure neighborhood, those friends that can be trusted, a home that feels like home. Undesirable and never-short-enough transitions quietly and sometimes not so quietly yearn and beg for comfort. Know the feeling?
No wonder my wife and I find ourselves actually almost catching our breath in the heart of middle Tennessee where Nashville’s treasure trove of “Southern comforts” beckon weary sojourners to come and rest for a while. Great music, gorgeous countrysides, Christmas at the Grand Ole Opry and of course the Loveless Cafe, where chicken and biscuits and the warmth of being close once again to “grandma’s kitchen” meld together like a perfect Sunday afternoon every single day of the year.
Is it no wonder that the 40th chapter of Isaiah finds the prophet being commissioned by God Himself to comfort His people . . physical and spiritual ruins are not the “final chapter” in His story . . Christmas is coming, a Shepherd will once and for all gather His sheep safely into His arms, close to His heart. Mercy will trump hopelessness without compromising His holiness and justice. Omnipotence and Everlasting refuse to forget the cause of the created, the ordinary, the you and I.
The message of Christmas …
trumpets through Isaiah hundreds of years before a Divine child is born in Bethlehem: God is not at war with His people, but He is fully prepared to go to battle for them as a Lamb Himself. Why? Because He is a God of mercy. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
If we carry the name Christian . .
would others first, foremost and always . .
describe us as one who is full of mercy?
– David “JB” Miller –
Think of God this way . . His mercy is the freight train without which you would never have introduction to the transported goods of grace, kindness and goodness . . and the train of mercy came to all of us in the Christ of Christmas, because God is a God of love . . and pure divine love refuses to deal out what we deserve but instead freely and generously offers what we need: pardon for sin and a forever seat at His table . . because He is the Great Shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture. We are His family and He fully intended to make sure we have a way home.
James, the brother of Jesus …
had perhaps one of the most perplexing childhoods and early adult lives anyone has ever had . . you see, he had a brother who claimed to be God . . check that . . was and is God. The apostle John tells us that James and the other brothers (Joseph, Jude and Simon) would have none of it. (John 7:5) All the “I told you so’s” and “what a waste” phrases that had been muttered for years by these male siblings were swallowed up by one very life-changing resurrection . . Jesus even made a special post-resurrection appearance just with James, who would go on to become the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
This same James would go on to identify himself years later in his own NT epistle as “James, a servant of God AND of the Lord Jesus Christ” and would eventually be stoned to death by the Jews for His faith.
Just how did he define “servant of God”? How do you define it? In James 3 we discover that James’ own transformation from sinner to God-chaser could be summarized by phrases like “foolish thinking to wise living” or “selfish ambition to humility and a humble regard towards others”. But make no mistake about it . . James’ life had been flipped upside down by the comfort (instead of condemnation) of Christ and Christmas.
You see, when he dared to ask who are the real “wise men” in a world so full of self-assured religious types both then and now, this is what he penned …
Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let them show it by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom . .
the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;
then peace-loving, considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
In an election year …
in which it has been so easy to observe and rehearse the corruption and self-serving power plays of the political types “out there”,
- It is James who refocuses our eyes on the corruption within.
- It is James who gets us to question if the relationships or lack of relationships in our lives are governed by pure motives.
- It is James who asks if we play favorites while excluding others from unrestrained acceptance?
- It is James who asks if we are agents of shame and distancing or ambassadors of peace and restoration?
It is James who raises questions like:
- Is our version of “Christian” me-serving or Savior-serving? . . or,
- Are we writing others out of our story when in fact He has commissioned us to let them know they are written in His? . . or,
- Is our faith sincere or just sincerely misguided? . . and,
- Are we seeking to bring comfort to the hurting or are we preoccupied with our own comfort?
The bottom line . .
if we carry the name Christian . . would others first, foremost and always . . describe us as one who is full of mercy?
This is what it means if you are truly ready to move beyond simply having a happy holiday that includes poetic phrases like “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and start the life-giving, joy-enriching, Christ-honoring practice of . . becoming Christmas.
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